Swaminathan S. Anklesaria Aiyar
As a beef-eating Hindu, I am utterly outraged at the killing of Mohammed Akhlaq in Dadri by a Hindu mob claiming the man had beef in his house. Even worse is the attempt of BJP politicians to sanitize the lynching.
Culture minister Mahesh Sharma claims it was just “an accident.” Former MLA Nawab Singh Nagar says those who dare hurt the feelings of the dominant Thakurs should realize the consequences. He claims the murderous mob consisted of “innocent children” below 15 years of age. Many BJP leaders blame the Muslims for eating beef. Vichitra Tomar wants cow-killers to be arrested, not Muslim killers. Srichand Sharma says violence is inevitable if Muslims disrespect Hindu sentiments. Sorry, but these are all lame excuses for murder.
Mob fury at Dadri began when a temple priest said a calf had been killed. Later, the priest admitted he had been pressured to make this false statement by two Hindu youths. So, this was a planned, murderous riot.
The police have sent the meat found in Akhlaq’s house to determine whether it was beef or mutton. Why? How does it matter? The mob will be just as guilty of murder if it is beef. Muslims have every legal right to eat beef, just as I do. Several states have bans on cow slaughter, while allowing the slaughter of bulls and buffaloes. But there is no ban on eating beef.
Hindus who hear a cow has been slaughtered can ask the police to investigate a possible violation of cow slaughter laws. But if instead they organize lynch mobs, they are murderous thugs, and should be treated as such. If Modi refuses to condemn such incidents, he will, rightly, be seen as blessing them.
The claim that all Hindus oppose cow slaughter is false. Yes, there is a strong upper-caste tradition today against beef, but Dalits and tribals have always eaten beef. “Beef is one of the most affordable sources of protein for the Dalit community,” says Mohan Dharavath, president, Dalit Adivasi Bahujan and Minority Students’ Association.
Ancient Hindu scriptures establish beyond doubt that even upper-caste Hindus and great rishis ate beef in days of yore. For a quick primer, read Nirad Chaudhuri’s ‘The Continent of Circe’. He says, “Love of cows in the Vedas goes with every possible economic use of cattle, including, of course, their slaughter for food”. There was a long debate, says Chaudhuri, between opponents and defenders of cow slaughter. The two ideas co-existed, very much like the debate today about vegetarianism. The Mahabharata mentions, “without thinking it necessary to add any excuse, that a very hospitable king used to have 20,100 cattle slaughtered every day for his guests.” On the other hand, another story tells of a king who has slaughtered a cow to entertain a sage, an act that is criticized as sinful by another sage.
Such differences and debates were the very essence of ancient Hinduism. It was not a rigid religion. By the time the Dharma Shastras were penned, beef consumption had “ceased or virtually ceased”. Nevertheless, Bhavabuti’s famous play, Uttara-Rama-Charitra, written in the 8th century AD, has the following dialogue between two hermit boys at Ayodhya, Saudahataki and Dandayana.
D: It is no less a person than the revered Vasishta himself.
S: Is it Vasishta, eh?
D: Who else?
S: I thought it was a tiger or a wolf. For, as soon as he came, he crunched up our poor tawny heifer.
D: It is written that meat should be given along with curds and honey. So every host offers a heifer, a big bull, or a goat to a learned Brahmin who comes as a guest. This is laid down in sacred law.
In India today, such a play would be banned, and its author threatened with death. But ancient Hindu traditions gave Bhavabuti an honoured place in literature, with no censorship or fear of mob lynching. The modern intolerance of Hindu goons is a cruel rejection of great Hindu traditions.
In ancient times, neither untouchables nor tribals were regarded as Hindus. Early 19th century censuses did not count dalits and tribals as Hindus. But modern Hinduism claims as its own these two groups whom it cruelly reviled and oppressed through the ages. I am all for the change. But that change must allow for the fact that Dalits and tribals have always eaten beef.
As a libertarian believer in free choice, I have always championed the freedom to eat anything one likes. But I also claim the right to eat beef as part of the ancient Hindu tradition highlighted by Bhavabuti. As a Brahmin, I am happily following in the footsteps of the sage Vasiishta.Swaminathan S. Anklesaria Aiyar is a research fellow at the Cato Institute.
**Written by Doug Powers
Another Sunday is upon us, so how about an open thread to hash things out (brought to you today by McD’s new Aortapounder sandwich, the good people at Flask Tie, and Happyscrapper).
Hillary Clinton was on last night’s season premiere of Saturday Night Live, and her campaign should be made to account for it as an in-kind donation:
Not even an “I’ll be your private server this evening” line from bartender “Val”?
Is there anything funnier than political sketch comedy written by fans of the featured politician with the material having been screened and approved by that candidate’s campaign? Focus grouped comedy makes for great political satire… of that approach to political satire.
Here are some other things freshly ripped from the teletype…
President Obama said that Putin’s acting out of weakness by moving into Syria. Obviously anything’s preferable to admitting Romney was right.
September was the deadliest month in gun-controlled Chicago in 13 years. May was Baltimore’s deadliest month in four decades.
Here’s the response from the White House:
Meanwhile, a lunatic singles out Christians for killing in Oregon and the White House goes after… the NRA.
Obama said “How can you, with a straight face, make the case that more guns will make us safer?”
Joe Biden will announce his 2016 intentions within days. I hope he gets in — we need to hear more about how buried the middle class has gotten these last few years from somebody who’s still holding the shovel.
Talk amongst yourselves! I’ll be appreciating the fact that the Lions won’t lose today — mostly because they don’t play until tomorrow night.
**Written by Doug Powers
Despite some recent stumbles in his campaign, the most dramatic development of the 2016 presidential race has been the meteoric ascent of Donald Trump to the status of front-runner for the Republican nomination. Trump’s rise is a particularly blatant example of a much deeper problem at the heart of modern democracy: widespread voter ignorance.
Trump’s success so far is in large part the result of an almost perfect storm of political ignorance. As a longtime celebrity, he had a built-in advantage with voters who don’t know much about politics, and therefore know little about more conventional politicians. With them, the name recognition that comes from being an entertainment celebrity is crucial.
Polls also consistently show that Trump’s support comes disproportionately from those with relatively low levels of education. For instance, a recent ABC/Washington Post survey found that 40% of Republican-leaning voters without college degrees support Trump, compared with only 19% of college graduates. Low education correlates with support for Trump far more than political ideology, or any other demographic variable. Education and political knowledge are not the same thing. Many college graduates know very little about politics, and some who lack college degrees know a lot. Nonetheless, the two are highly correlated.
“Voters generally don’t pay close attention to the details. Even when Trump is gone politicians will still be exploiting that fact.”
Political ignorance could also help explain why Trump has won the support of a large share of the generally conservative Republican primary electorate, despite his long history of liberal stances on issues such as health care, taxes, government spending and property rights. Relatively ignorant voters rarely pay close attention to issue positions and are likely unaware of the details of Trump’s record.
Some argue that lesser-educated voters are attracted to Trump because of his anti-immigration platform. Americans with lower education could be more exposed to competition from immigrant workers. But many surveys show that there is little or no correlation between opposition to immigration and exposure to job competition from immigrants. Indeed, opposition to immigration is disproportionately high in states where the immigrant population is relatively small. Moreover, the people most exposed to competition from new immigrants are other recent immigrants with similar job skills. Yet immigrants consistently show stronger support for additional immigration than do native-born Americans.
In both the United States and Europe, support for tighter restrictions on immigration is highly correlated with ignorance about the true number of immigrants (restrictionists tend to greatly overestimate it) and with xenophobic hostility toward foreigners. Opposition to immigration is also often correlated with ignorance of economics. In his book The Myth of the Rational Voter, economist Bryan Caplan found that the economists on both the left and right take a far more favorable view of the impact of immigration on the economy than ordinary voters, particularly those who have low levels of education and economic knowledge. Economists understand that the economy is not a zero-sum game between immigrants and natives; rather, each group can benefit from the work of the other.
Anti-immigration voters might also be misled by claims that immigrants increase the crime rate, an assertion embodied in Trump’s notorious statement that Mexico is sending us “criminals” and “rapists.” In reality, studies consistently show that immigrants have a much lower violent crime rate than natives. Not all opposition to immigration is the result of ignorance. But a great deal is.
Unfortunately, political ignorance is not a problem unique to Trump’s supporters or this particular campaign, or to any one side of the political spectrum. Decades of survey data show that most Americans have low levels of political knowledge. For example, an Annenberg Public Policy Center survey taken during the 2014 campaign, which decided control of Congress, found that only 38% knew which party controlled the House of Representatives at the time, and the same low percentage knew which one controlled the Senate.
Exploitation of ignorance was a standard political tool long before Trump decided to run for president. It was not Trump but the far more respectable President Obama who secured passage of his signature health reform law in large part by manipulating what Obamacare architect Jonathan Gruber called “the stupidity of the American voter.” The president lied to the public when he repeatedly assured them that “if you like your health care plan, you can keep it.” A 2012 YG Policy Center poll showed that 64% of Americans fell for that deception.
The problem is not that voters are stupid, or that accurate information is unavailable. Rather, for most voters, political ignorance is actually rational. No matter how well-informed you are, the probability that your vote will change the outcome of an election is tiny — only one in 60 million in a presidential election. Few Americans know the exact odds. But most have an intuitive sense that there is little payoff to carefully studying political issues. Quite rationally, they act accordingly. That behavior, however, leaves them vulnerable to Trump and others who seek to manipulate ignorance for political gain.
Despite his current lead in the polls, Trump probably won’t win the GOP nomination, much less the presidency. But even when his star fades, the political ignorance that fueled his rise will remain, ripe for exploitation by other candidates and interest groups. That, far more than his crude rhetoric, is the truly frightening reality revealed by The Donald.Ilya Somin is a law professor at George Mason University, and an adjunct scholar at the Cato Institute. He is the author of Democracy and Political Ignorance: Why Smaller Government is Smarter.